connecting threads

So it took me a week to get through ABC TV’s show Art Nation last week, I finished it yesterday. Lucky I persevered (which reminds me, I have to get through The Baroque episode I missed before it’s yanked from iView) as there was an interesting segment on a Melbourne based Pacific Islander weaving group.

I’d read about Maryann Talia Pau on Kevin Murray’s Craft Unbound site recently, and saw some of her works that were displayed at the NGV alongside the in the Wisdom of the Mountain: Art of the Ömie exhibition at the NGV earlier this year.

Aside from creating truly awesome work which is shown in the piece above, the video explains that she has instituted a group working environment where crafts-people can get together to engage in the other side of making – communication.

We make to communicate with others, to have a dialogue between ourselves, the object and the wearer or viewer. Even the critics at the Wheeler Centre the other night understood the need that artists have to be acknowledged by someone, simply because, as I see it, making art is a form of communication. I make in objects things that I can’t communicate in any other way. And just like when I talk, I like feedback, to know that my unspoken dialogue is being seen or felt in some way.

So why communicate as you work then? Well, talking as you make work lets the object into the conversation. You communicate at once with your circle and with a future audience via the object under construction. While making you have a dialogue with the object in the hand and with others via the same object, the movements of your hand, as well as through verbal communication.

The works I make when talking amongst a group are different to what I make when I commune with a piece alone, and different again when collaborating with a single other person. The lessons I learn in a group are thus different to those I learn alone in the studio. And in a group I have been exposed to other ways of making than my own, which is one of the most compelling reasons for undertaking such work.

An example: at last week’s Part B meet, Gillian Hillman gave the group a two minute ‘how to’ session for creating a particular gem setting for a ring. She upended the process that Mary had been using, explaining one that was both simpler and more refined. Sharing knowledge through working in a group, such as Gillian’s making process, will obviously make ones output within the group different to ones solo pieces. But there lies the potential to enhance ones solo projects too.

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